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Attorney for Australian held at Guantanamo critical of detention

David Hicks has been detained for two years without charge so far.
David Hicks has been detained for two years without charge so far.

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NEW YORK (CNN ) -- The attorney for an Australian captured in Afghanistan and being held as an enemy combatant at Guantanamo Bay, has called the detention camp where his client is being held a "legal, physical and moral black hole."

Attorney Stephen Kenny described to reporters on Wednesday as much as he legally could about his first meetings with his client, David Hicks, which came over the course of five days recently.

Hicks, an Australian who was captured in northern Afghanistan as a suspected Taliban fighter, is the first detainee allowed to have a visit from an independent lawyer.

Hicks has not been formally charged. His attorney said that when a charge is filed, it might involve an allegation of some sort of conspiracy to carry out a terrorist act.

The Bush administration agreed last month that, if found guilty, Hicks would escape the death penalty and would be sent to Australia to serve any sentence imposed by a U.S. military tribunal. (Full story)

Kenny described Hicks as "being in reasonable spirits, although he's quite depressed about his condition and essentially what has happened to him."

Hicks "has not been ill-treated since his arrival in Guantanamo Bay if you ignore the isolation, his lack of access to the outside world, and his denial of his basic human rights," Kenny said.

The attorney asserted that "the process does not measure up to minimum international standards," citing the differences in legal treatment between his client and American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, as well as the rules of evidence applied to this case compared to usual civil or even military court-martial cases.

The detainees have been held for two years without access to lawyers or the filing of charges. Hicks has been assigned a U.S. military attorney.

"David Hicks is an Australian citizen. If he has committed a war crime then there is no reason why the Australian government should not try him," said Kenny. An alternative, he said, would be a U.N.-backed court.

"It appears to me that Saddam Hussein will be afforded a trial that represents a fairer system of justice than what David Hicks will receive."

Hicks, 26, is a self-styled "soldier of fortune" who converted to Islam while fighting for the Kosovo Liberation Army.

The Australian government said Hicks moved to Pakistan in November 1999 and trained with the Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of dozens of Islamic groups fighting to wrest control of Kashmir from India.

He then moved to Afghanistan in 2001 and trained with Osama bin Laden's network, the Australian government said. The Northern Alliance captured him in December 2001 and handed Hicks over to the U.S. military. He was one of the first detainees transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

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